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Courtesy of Gang Pei and Jian Zhao
In a feat of biological wizardry worthy of Harry Potter, scientists have transformed skin cells into nerve cells — no magic wand required.
Just a handful of chemicals can conjure up nerve cells that look and act like the real thing, Chinese researchers report August 6 in two studies in Cell Stem Cell. Even skin cells from Alzheimer’s patients can morph into seemingly healthy neurons, one of the new studies showed. The other reported a similar feat using mouse cells. Scientists have transformed skin cells into nerve cells before, but not as simply.
“I think it’s a big deal,” says Stanford University stem cell biologist Marius Wernig.